Kobe Bryant vs. ESPN: Are There Really 6 Players Better Than Kobe?

ESPN and TrueHoop recently released a list of their top 500 players, and to some observers' surprise Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant was found to be the league's seventh-best player.

I applaud ESPN for undertaking the monumental task of categorizing an astounding 500 players, but in truth, the top 10 players on the list have generated most of the discussion.

Particularly Bryant's placement at seventh, which I feel is dead-on.

The players rated above Bryant by ESPN in order were LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.

At least reasonable arguments can be made in the case of James, Wade and Howard based on the fact that each player is capable of dominating a game consistently in multiple arenas, but the selections of Nowitzki, Paul and Durant ahead of Bryant are a little strange.

Strange, maybe, but not without merit when you consider the most recent body of work by all players concerned.

Paul, by his standards, had a mediocre regular season in which he averaged 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field. 

Those numbers are certainly enough to thrust Paul into the conversation as the league's top point guard, but the New Orleans Hornets floor general's performance in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Lakers may be why ESPN chose to place him ahead of Bryant.

Paul's Hornets lost to the Lakers in six games, but Paul turned in one of NBA history's top postseason performances of all time, as he averaged 22 points, 11.5 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game, while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field.

Paul's legendary postseason definitely certified him as one of the NBA's top three point guards, but did he prove he was a better player than Bryant last season?

Nowitzki also...

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